The beauty of music is that it's subjective. There isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to voicing an opinion on art. There are however, the undeniable classics that everyone can agree on: All Eyez on Me, Ready to Die, Illmatic, Doggystyle, The Marshall Mathers LP, to name but a few.
Then there are those slept-on classics that everyone you speak to has nothing but good things to say about - but for whatever reason, they didn’t quite get the notoriety they deserved. One of these albums is Sticky Fingaz’ Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones.
Celebrating its 15 year anniversary, it’s hard to believe that the hard-hitting debut solo LP from the Onyx MC has been around that long, especially as it sounds as fresh today as it did back in 2001.
Easily one of hip-hop’s finest concept albums, its story arc format and cohesively on-point narrative puts it in the same discussion as Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city. Telling the tale of ex-con Kirk Jones - who although shares the same government name as Sticky Fingaz, isn’t actually based on him - and his struggle to deal with life after incarceration, Black Trash is a turbulent ride that explores faith, family, falling back into the street life, the relationship issues of a felon, and money being the root of all evil (the song 'Money Talks' plays like Nas’ 'I Gave You Power' but from the first-person perspective of money instead of a gun).
Featuring some high-profile guests in the form of Eminem, Raekwon, Redman, and Onyx brethren Fredro Starr, and with production by the likes of DJ Scratch, Nottz, and Rockwilder, Universal Records were on to a winner. That is until Sticky broke his foot in a barroom brawl right before the album’s release meaning the album had to be pushed back, the original tour to promote the album had to be scrapped, and the marketing that had already gone out was to no avail.
Chopping it up with Gigwise in-between shooting music videos for his upcoming new project, It’s About T.I.M.E., Sticky Fingaz revisits his debut album.
It’s been 15 years since the release of Black Trash, can you believe it?
"Yeah, I can believe it. It doesn’t feel like 15 years but I can believe it."
What was the relevance of the Black Trash title?
"Well the title was Black Trash and the subtitle was The Autobiography of Kirk Jones because the story was about this guy, Kirk Jones, who was basically black trash. And even though Kirk Jones is my real government name it wasn’t about me. Instead of picking some random name I just used my own name."
Many hip-hop fans believe Black Trash to be one of the most slept-on albums of the past 20 years. Do you agree with this and why do you think it’s slept-on?
"Yes, I would agree with that. I think it was partly because the marketing was kinda messed up around that point. I was supposed to go on this huge tour and the day before the tour I broke my fucking foot in some bar room brawl. On top of that I just think maybe people weren’t ready for it, it might have been ahead of its time."
Surely you get people coming up to you and telling you it’s dope everyday, right?
"Yeah absolutely, especially as I had so many different concepts on there. You know, talking to God, courtroom scenes, shit… seeing my little brother. It was well rounded. It was full of topics, content, guest appearances as well. The beats were insane. The lyrics were well thought out, creative, lyrical, exciting, heartfelt."
So the marketing wasn’t what it should have been?
"Well yeah. Everything got pushed back. The album was supposed to be released at a certain time [which it didn’t]. The tour was supposed to happen but then like I said I broke my foot so that kinda messed up the marketing, the tour and the release date."
How long were you out with the broken foot?
"I think it was like three months."
Why was it your only solo album on Universal?
"Probably because it didn’t sell the number of records they thought it was going to sell."
So they dropped you?
"Nah, I didn’t get dropped but in the same token I didn’t get picked up either. It wasn’t a multiple album deal, it was just one album. If I had sold fucking 10 million copies I’m sure they would have been trying to renegotiate another album, at which point I would have stuck them up."
What are some of your fondest memories making the album?
"Man! It was a lot of fun recording the album. X1 and Canibus was about to fight inside the studio. Fucking Raekwon came and did his thing. [DJ] Scratch came to the studio with one beat, I said to him, 'Hold up! The producer that just left he had like 20 beats. How many beats you got Scratch?' He said he only had one beat. I was like, 'One beat!?' He said, 'Sticky, chill. This is ‘the’ beat.' And lo and behold it ended up being the first single, which was 'Get It Up'.
"Shit, there are so many memories. When Eminem came through to do the song 'What If I Was White', we was in the studio for hours and he had me cracking up for three hours straight, there was a lot of great memories."
Why were X1 and Canibus going to fight?
"It wasn’t like they had a little beef with one another it was just X1 didn’t really like, well, it wasn't that he didn’t really like Canibus, they had battled before in front of The Tunnel and those that saw it were like, 'Oh, Canibus kinda got at you a little bit.' So I guess X1 felt a certain way about that so when he saw him again he wanted to pop off on him."
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
"I don’t know. I look at the album as a complete body of work, a complete animal. But maybe 'Oh My God', 'Money Talks', 'State vs. Kirk Jones'. Basically like all them shits, you know what I’m saying? 'Baby Brother'. There’s a lot of classics on that shit."
Now while the album is supposed to be a fictional tale are any of the events on the album based on true events from your own life?
"Not really, it’s a fictional tale. But I did have to pull from reality. You know what I’m saying?"
So nothing in particular that stands out?
"From my real life? Well the album I’m working on right now, It’s About T.I.M.E., and T.I.M.E. is an acronym that stands for The Illest Motherfucker Ever, is about the illest mother fucker ever and it’s the story of my life. It’s not Black Trash part two or anything but it is a concept album like Black Trash, where it’s the story of my life from beginning to end, from birth to right now. And I have actually filmed a movie to each song and I’m not even in it until the end of the entire album.
"I’ve got a four year old, a seven year old, and a 17 year old playing the young Sticky Fingaz in the piece. All the actors had to shave their head bald to get the part. So to answer the question, Black Trash didn’t really take anything from my real life but this new album is about my real life, the life of Sticky Fingaz, not Kirk Jones."
When’s that dropping?
"As soon as it’s done, and it’s almost done. I mean the album is done we’re just filming the pieces to it. The filming is 85 percent done, maybe 90 percent."
Where did you get the idea to write 'My Dogs Iz My Guns'?
"I think Fredro helped me come up with the concept for that song. It was all about a dog being a mans best friend but in the hood your mother fucking best friend is your gun because who can really trust? Even you friends can turn snakes. Me and Fredro were just talking about it one day and then I just went ahead and laid it down."
Was there ever supposed to be a follow-up to Black Trash?
"There was potentially going to be a follow-up to it but it was never planned or discussed, or anything like that. And the next album I released, Decade, meh… it was an ok album. I didn’t really like that album, I just did it for the money. And I’ll be vocal and the first to tell fans that."
Weren’t you supposed to do a movie to accompany Black Trash?
"I never got the budget to do the movie, and while I maybe had the know how to do it back then I didn’t know that I had the know how to do it. Does that makes sense?"
Are you able to pick your favourite verse from the album?
"That’s impossible! I don’t fucking know. That’s like trying to pick your favourite kid and shit, although I know some parents do have a favourite kid."
So you didn’t have any verse that after you wrote it you were like, “God damn that was incredible”?
"I feel that way with every verse I write."
How come Eminem only did a hook and not a complete verse on the song 'What if I Was White'?
"Since I was talking about what it would be like if I was white I wanted him to rap about what it would be like if he was black but he didn’t want to do it. It goes back to what Chris Rock said: “Nobody wants to be black, even the bus boy wouldn’t trade places with me and I’m rich. He’s like, ‘I’ma ride this white thing out and see where it takes me.’’’ So I’m guessing it was that type of thinking that made him not want to do it. But first I had asked Fred Durst and he said no too. He said we could do any other song he just didn’t want to do that one.
"I was so hell bent on them doing that song. So I asked Eminem and he didn’t want to do it either but I had already done the song 'Remember Me' for his album - it was him, me and RBX with Dr. Dre on the beat. So I tried to come up with a happy medium and I just said, “Well, could you at least just do the chorus?” So he ended up doing the chorus and after he did the chorus he said, “Sticky, I still feel like I owe you because you murdered my song and all I did was some chorus for you that you wrote.” So I told him I would be collecting soon."
Are you still looking to collect on it?
"Yeah, but he changed his number so I can’t find him."
Were there any features on Black Trash that were supposed to happen but didn’t?
“Fred Durst was one. Slipknot was supposed to be on the album, I recorded two songs with them that never made the album. That’s all I can think of right now off the top of my head."
Do you still have the Slipknot songs?
"They’re somewhere, I don’t have them. If I wanted to listen to them right now I couldn’t. Somebody has them at a studio somewhere."
Was it hard to get permission to use Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” for the album’s closing track?
"Yes it was. They didn’t give me permission at first, they denied me. And then Dino Delvaille, my A&R at Universal at that time, he said why don’t you try writing them a letter. So I wrote a letter to whoever it was in charge of his estate at the time telling them why I wanted to use it. They came back and said I could use it but I couldn’t change any of the words. So I was like, “Well that fucking sucks ass!” But whatever, we kept it as it was but there is a dirty version of it floating around the internet somewhere so people can hear it the way it was supposed to be."
It seems like you rarely ever perform any of the songs from the album when you’re out touring. Have you ever played any of the song’s from the album live?
"When I first put out the album I did a tour with Royce Da 5’9” and Nelly and I performed some of the songs on that tour. It was almost like a Broadway style play in a sense. It was a performance but we did some little acting bits mid set too. But I’ve been touring so long with Fredro as Onyx there’s never really been a Sticky Fingaz tour so I’ve never really performed it live."
Are there any plans of perhaps doing an anniversary tour?
"No, there are no plans for an anniversary tour but I am planning on touring the new album so I might squeeze some of the Black Trash songs in as well."
Now that you’ve sat with Black Trash for as long as you have, what’s the best way to describe it to someone who maybe hasn’t heard it?
"It’s a piece of art. One of the greatest rap albums ever made full of concepts and lyrics. A few of your favourite artists making guest appearances. A must hear. Black Trash is a must hear and the new album, It’s About T.I.M.E., is a must see."